Now. I just finished Douglas Clegg's NEVERLAND. Oh boy. Wow. Resonant. Atmospheric as hell.
Ain't heard of no Gull Island in Georgia? Turns out, you don't hafta, on account of Clegg's evocative-as-hell writing. Not only will you have visited it thoroughly when you're done reading, you'll know that damned island as if it were you and not Beau who summered there.
It's loaded with sentences like this: He had mood swings the way Uncle Ralph had cans of beer: one after the other, no matter the time of day.
And this: I remember summers on Gull Island as being all begrudging mornings and afternoons that went on forever like a school day: hot and sticky and smelling like a stagnant pond. Ooh, lovely, right?
But the one that struck me was a plain one. This: The rest of the island was in a state of panic.
As readers, we're buzzing around Gull Island with the main character, 10-year-old Beau, in scenes like that from which the above line was taken. As Beau moves through this particular scene, he's overwhelmed by an onslaught of sensations - slashing rain, igniting trees, relatives squabbling, family secrets popping open like gas-bloated corpses - which place us squarely within his experience. And it's awesome.
But while we're being shelled by Beau's sensory bombs, Clegg also rears back to give us the 50,000-ft. view of the scene - to show what's going on around it, and away from it.
Yeah, it was a minor lightbulb moment for me, so? I tend to come late to obvious things. Sue me.
It just reminded me to pull back--pull back whydoncha--and do a flyover of the terrain of a scene as I wade through it. See, I tend to go deep POV when I'm writing. And while it allows for some great immediacy, it also presents some serious tunnel vision.
So, thanks NEVERLAND for reminding me to pull back--pull back whydoncha--every so often to see the 50,000-ft view of the scene's terrain. Mind, I'm not talking about the plot line or the book as a whole (we all need to back up so's we can see that whole thing). I'm talking about pulling back to see the larger whole of the scene's environs.
Next time you're writing, say, a scene in a house, pull back and think about what's going on outside. Out on the highway. Upstairs in the attic. Out in the side yard. What's going on with that truck parked down the hill. The hissed argument between the girls on the swing. You don't have to include all of this, but still think about it. Consider what's going on while your character is moving inside the house.
Not only does it give some good context, but taking a look at the larger environs of a scene might also offer up some additional story seeds that can germinate in later chapters.